Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prodigal Son and LeBron James: Camden said it first

Immediately after Sports Illustrated published the letter from LeBron James about returning to Cleveland to play basketball, our son Camden walked into my (home) office and said that I needed to include a section in my reception history of the parables book about LeBron James as a classic "prodigal son." I demurred.

At lunch today, Camden googled "Lebron James prodigal son" and marveled at how many hits there were.

For the record, Camden said it first.

Here are some I just found when I googled it:


The Cleveland Plain Dealer (the "prodigal king"?)


The Irish Times (The Irish Times?)




One (in a political journal) that predicted the return of the "prodigal" James over a year ago, in March 2013.

And many, many others.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is indeed found everywhere over the centuries since Jesus said it, and it has been applied in a multiplicity of ways. 

It reminds me of how I started my lecture at Oxford University three weeks ago:

This lecture stems from my current book project on the reception history of the parables. This introductory textbook will include ~50 examples of the “afterlives” of parables. In those 50 or so examples, I will include voices that are considered important, voices that are often not heard, and ones that are unusual or distinctive, ranging from the fairly famous to the fairly obscure. The selection process is difficult, because the book will include interpretations of as many different parables as possible, but today I want to share with you five examples of some things I have found on just one parable, the Prodigal Son, one of the best loved and most frequently interpreted parables.

I have a lot from which to choose, because you can find examples of the prodigal son pattern almost anywhere. Some can serve as positive examples (John Newton):

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me.I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now I see.

Other examples would not be seen as positive—this one is a football reference, in honor of the World Cup (George Best):

I spent a lot of money on booze, birds, and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.

Back to the World Cup Final now . . . .

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